Thomas Hill Standpipe Tours
Bangor Water’s Thomas Hill Standpipe is located on Thomas Hill Road, which runs from Union Street to Ohio Street. Access during tours is from Union Street ONLY.
Tours of the historic Thomas Hill Standpipe are not being scheduled due to public health considerations. The internal standpipe stairs are confining, and social distancing is difficult on the promenade deck.
Access to the promenade deck is via a 100-step enclosed stairway. The historic structure is not handicap accessible.
Travel on Thomas Hill Road to the standpipe is one-way from Highland Avenue during tours; parking is limited in the immediate area of the standpipe.
Thomas Hill Standpipe History
The Thomas Hill Standpipe was built in 1897 to provide water storage for fire-fighting and to help regulate pressure in downtown Bangor. It has been in continuous use since it was completed. Bangor Water assumed ownership of the standpipe in 1957 when a quasi-municipal water district (separate from the City of Bangor) was formed.
The standpipe, which holds 1,500,000 gallons of water, is a riveted wrought iron tank with a wood frame jacket located on Thomas Hill in Bangor. The metal standpipe consists of steel plates riveted one outside the other, and stands 50 feet high and 75 feet in diameter.
The wooden building that encloses it is 85 feet in diameter and 110 feet high. The 24 12”x12” main posts, which extend up past the open promenade deck, begin at the base of the structure and are 48 feet long.
Between the tank and the wooden shell is a staircase to the promenade deck and – beyond a locked door – a winding stairway leading to the roof and access to the flagpole. The promenade deck encircling the top is 12 feet wide and 280 feet in circumference.
There are exterior windows along the deck, which allow views of the outside, and an interior window, which allows a view of the steel water tank and the carousel-shaped system of wood and steel that span the open water tank. A three-ton drum with 24 iron trusses stretches from side to side over the tank for support.
The structure has a stone foundation nine feet high and 3 1/2 feet thick at the base. The sill of bent pine planks atop the foundation is 14 inches thick.
The wooden part of the structure required 42,000 feet of hard pine and 222,000 cedar shingles. When constructed in 1897, the contractor employed 22 men and erected a portable sawmill and blacksmith shop on the site. The entire project took about six months.
Originally, the exterior was painted dark gray. Lights were added to the crown in 1912, and the tank was painted white. The tower was open to the public unattended for many years, and featured seats on the promenade deck for viewing the countryside. The Bangor Commercial reported that 3,200 tourists signed the guest book in 1935, but the Thomas Hill Standpipe was closed in the 1940s – partly as the result of an accident in which an eleven-year-old boy was killed when he fell while climbing on the beams under the stairway, and partly as a security measure during World War II when the tower was painted olive drab and the lights were turned off.
By V-J Day in 1945, the lights went back on and four years later, the standpipe was once again painted white, but visitors were not allowed back inside for several decades. For the past 24 years, Bangor Water has opened the standpipe four times a year so the public can again enjoy views from the promenade deck.
A fire detection alarm system and a “dry” sprinkler system that can be filled from an outside hydrant were added several years ago to protect the structure. In 2013, the exterior surface was painted at cost of $160,000; the cost to paint the standpipe in 1900 was $375. In 2014, we replaced the original 1912 exterior light fixtures and bulbs with new LED units which will last longer and cost less to operate.
The Thomas Hill Standpipe is a National Historic Landmark (Register of Historic Places and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission). It is also designated an American Water Landmark (American Water Works Association, and a civil engineering landmark (American Society of Civil Engineers).